CETIM, the Technical Centre for the Mechanical Industries, was created in 1965 in order to provide companies in France with the means and skills to increase their competitiveness. Since then it has established itself as a major player in the development of advanced manufacturing technologies, and is the main national conduit between researchers and industry in the sector. Operating along the entire innovation value chain, CETIM provides its member companies with a wide range of services, from research and testing to product co-development, market analysis and training.
Advanced manufacturing technologies for clean production
In order to develop solutions that enhance productivity together with sustainability, CETIM turned its attention to clean production around 15 years ago. Since then, through intensive research activity it has become a major player in the development of innovative solutions in this field, including advanced manufacturing technologies. “CETIM files around 15 patents per year,” explains Olivier Leroux, Industrial and Sustainable Performance Department Manager, “and has developed or co-developed numerous technologies and production processes taken up by industry.”
CETIM also possess experts in modelling and simulation tools which help optimise the design and maintenance of technologies and processes. One good example is the ‘Ecodesign studio’ software co-developed by CETIM to support the development of sustainable mechanical products. Alongside this, the centre is currently working on the resource efficiency optimisation of complete manufacturing value chains, simulating different models in industrial conditions in the MEMAN Horizon2020 project. CETIM are also working intensively on predictive maintenance, specifically within the recent SUPREME FP7 project, which it coordinated. This project resulted in the centre receiving a national award for its contribution to the optimisation of industrial processes.
Developing new technologies for sustainable manufacturing
In terms of new technologies, a major success story for CETIM has been the ThermoPRIME® (ThermoPlastic Recycling for Innovative Material and Ecodesign) technology, developed in collaboration with CERMAT, an associated centre. The idea behind the technology is to ‘upcycle’ end-of-life plastics to produce high value-added composite materials. The innovation consists of combining reinforcements made of long fibres or fabrics with recycled plastics to produce composite materials with mechanical characteristics far superior to the original material (mechanical strength 5 to 10 times higher). These durable materials, available in the form of panels and profiles, can be used according to conventional techniques such as machining, thermo-punching, welding, etc. for the production of industrial parts. CETIM has also developed a complementary Thermosaïc technology, dedicated to recycling these thermoplastics at end-of-life.
Another recent innovation is the CO2 supercritical cleaning machine co-developed by CETIM for cleaning and degreasing industrial parts. By exploiting CO2 in this supercritical state, the machine avoids the use of other solvents and detergents. Overall the process is 100% dry and clean and it consumes just half the energy of traditional degreasing technologies. In this state the CO2 can also be recycled indefinitely.
Providing the link between research and industry
One of the other main roles of the centre is to transfer knowledge. Across its three main sites and 19 regional representations, CETIM is in direct contact with all actors from the mechanical industry, and makes its research results and products available to member companies. In the framework of collective action projects financed by regional authorities, each year CETIM offers tailored support to around 50 SMEs looking to improve their environmental performance. The centre also organises the biennial CleanMeca Fair to engage with industrial clients that are in search of more sustainable production technologies. On other occasions CETIM has joined forces with the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the European Union to strengthen knowledge transfer.
As well as research and technology transfer activities, CETIM also work to ensure that manufacturing companies have the know-how to use new technologies. “Training and awareness raising are essential to foster behavioural change towards more energy and resource efficient production value chains,” says Leroux. By being in direct contact with industry, CETIM is at the forefront of the dissemination of good practices, ensuring that the latest advanced manufacturing technologies gain widespread uptake.